Diversity drives better solutions

Osler is committed to diversity and inclusion in our policies and in practice. We respect that each individual is unique, and we recognize, welcome and celebrate these individual differences. We aim to ensure that all of us can “bring our full selves” to work and achieve our full potential. We strive to provide an inclusive, supportive and collaborative professional environment that nurtures a collective force of unique talents.

By embracing difference, not only do we offer a better work environment for our people, but we deliver better solutions to our clients. The solutions that emerge from diverse teams and perspectives have proven to be the most creative and innovative. Osler recognizes that diversity must be actively supported through an array of internal and external initiatives. 

Recent milestones

  • In recognition of our diversity and inclusion efforts, Osler was named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers (2017) for the second straight year.
  • Our Diversity Committee has released our inaugural Diversity at Osler: 2016 Year in Review [PDF] report, which highlights all of our diversity initiatives — internally, within the community and within the legal industry — that are actively being supported at Osler. 
  • We are honoured to be recognized as the recipient of the 2016 Corporate Diversity and Leadership Award by the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) for our leadership in achieving greater diversity in the legal profession.

  • Osler’s investments in diversity are supported by our leadership. We pioneered a formal Diversity Committee and an Executive Council that advises other Osler governance committees on strategic initiatives.

  • We are proud that Osler’s longstanding Diversity Committee Chair, Douglas Rienzo, has been recognized by Lexpert’s Zenith Awards 2016 for his leadership in diversity and inclusion.

  • Our 2016 firm-wide demographic survey builds on survey data from our two previous surveys. This cumulative data allows us to better serve our people and our clients by tailoring our diversity and inclusion initiatives to meet our ever-changing workforce.

  • Throughout the year and across the firm, we celebrate diversity through sponsorships, networking events, pro bono activities and our client reporting mechanisms.

Notable activities

Osler Pride Network: Led by Brandon Kerstens and supported by Douglas Rienzo, the Osler Pride Network was created by and for Osler legal professionals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and their allies, to support professional development and offer networking opportunities.

Osler Women Lawyers Network: Led by Aislinn Reid and supported by Amanda Heale, this is Osler’s newest Legal Professional Resource Group. Created by and for members of the Osler community, the network encourages and supports the advancement of women through social and networking events, informal mentoring and coaching, pro bono and volunteer initiatives, business development opportunities and new recruitment programs. 

Asia-Pacific Affinity Network: Led by Eric Choi, Michele Qu and Steven Ngo, and supported by Richard Wong, the Asia-Pacific Affinity Network (APAN) was created by and for members of the Osler community. APAN supports employees with cultural, ethnic, professional and other links to the Asia-Pacific region, especially through professional development and networking opportunities.

We also support the diversity of our firm through a variety of benefits, including the following:

Domestic Partner/Same-Sex Spouse Health Benefits: While firm-subsidized health insurance for domestic partners and same-sex spouses is standard in Canada, Osler has provided similar coverage to employees in the United States for many years.

Quiet Room: The Quiet Room in our Toronto office is a space where Osler lawyers and staff of any religion, or of no religion, can engage in prayer, quiet reflection or meditation. 

Diversity in our communities

Osler actively sponsors and participates in  a number of community programs, often in collaboration with our clients, to support diversity initiatives.

  • Canadian Board Diversity Council: Advances diversity on Canada’s boards. The council’s Diversity 50 initiative was developed to address the “visibility barrier” faced by diverse candidates and provide a database of diverse candidates ready for roles on Canada’s corporate boards.

  • Canadian Women in Private Equity committee: Promotes the entry, advancement, development and retention of women in private equity.

  • Out On Bay Street: Supports the professional development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally students as they transition from school to career.

  • Pride at Work Canada: Supports LGBT employees in the corporate workplace.

  • Catalyst Canada: Creates opportunities for women in business in Canada and the inclusion of women in the workplace.

  • Justicia Project: Supports the retention and advancement of women lawyers in private practice.

  • Business Leadership for Women Lawyers: Supports the advancement of female legal talent and the growth of organizational performance through professional development and critical business skills.

  • Asian Canadian Law Students Conference: Provides a forum for law students and the rest of the legal community to discuss legal issues about Asia and the Asian Canadian community.

  • Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers: Promotes opportunity and inclusion for Asian Canadian legal professionals.

  • Canadian Association of Black Lawyers: Supports black law professionals in the workplace across Canada.

  • Black Law Students Association of Canada: Supports academic and professional opportunities for black law students.

  • Jewish Law Students’ Association: Organizes educational and social events to support the Jewish experience in law school.

Pro bono support

Osler has a long and proud history of providing pro bono advocacy on behalf of diverse communities. Recent cases include the following:

May Cheng provided pro bono support to the equality effect, a Canadian-based charitable organization that uses human rights law to improve the lives of women and girls in Africa and around the world by initiating innovative legal and constitutional challenges as well as undertaking grassroots education, law reform, test case litigation and outreach. A trademark lawyer, May assisted the not-for-profit in securing rights in its name, registering "the equality effect" as a trademark and helping the organization obtain charitable status. She is also a member of the equality effect’s fundraising committee, and has spearheaded many fundraising efforts to support the charitable organization. Osler hosted a father-daughter breakfast in support of the cause on May 15, 2017.

In 2015, Éric Préfontaine, Jean-François Forget and Julien Hynes-Gagné successfully obtained an ex parte Norwich Order on behalf of a Chicago-area gay man, who was the victim of an “imposter profile” that was created without his permission on a Montréal-based online dating site. The profile published explicit photographs with the victim’s name and other identifying details. As a result of Osler’s win, the victim was able to confirm the identity of the profile creators.

In 2014, as part of an international team of counsel, Catherine Gleason-Mercier represented professional female soccer players in their petition against using artificial turf at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Challenging the unprecedented decision of FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) to hold a major tournament on an “inferior” playing surface, the professional female soccer players brought a human rights application before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Preliminary procedures were won, with the tribunal ruling that FIFA must attorn to its jurisdiction in the dispute between FIFA, the CSA and the players.

In 2011, Mary Paterson provided pro bono assistance to a United Nations (UN) employee whose same-sex partner, also a UN employee, was killed while working overseas. Although the UN agencies recognized the relationship as a marriage, the UN pension fund, which is independent from the UN, did not, and refused to pay a widower's benefit. Paterson successfully challenged the pension fund, setting a precedent that will help all same-sex couples working for the UN internationally.

Diversity at Osler: 2016 in Review

Download PDF

“We strive to build a firm that reflects diversity, not only to attract lawyers and staff who are the best at what they do, but to provide our clients with the benefit of the diversity of viewpoints and experiences that our professionals offer.”







Douglas Rienzo
Chair, Osler’s Diversity Committee